BOOK REVIEW: Angel Mage by Garth Nix

The Blurb (from Goodreads):

More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.

A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.

Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.

But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.

The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .

My Thoughts:

Oooh, a new book by Garth Nix!

Ooooh, about angels!

Ooooooh! Set in an alternative 17th century France! With a dedication to Alexandre Dumas and the makers of The Three Musketeers!

It’s a no-brainer. As soon as I heard about it, I had Angel Mage on pre-order and devoured it the moment it arrived.

Garth Nix writes fantasy just the way I like it. Clever, complex, vivid and compelling, with characters that leap off the page and a plot that twists and turns and soars and plunges like a rollercoaster.

This is a new world for him, and I already love it just as much as I love the Old Kingdom. I have a particular soft spot for 17th century France, thanks to the Three Musketeers – indeed I’ve written a book of my own set there and then. And I’ve had a lifelong fascination with angels – I actually collect them, though not perhaps as you imagine.

Anyway, Angel Mage was pure delight from beginning to end. We have a beautiful young mage who can kill an angel and uses her power over them for evil. And then we have four young people drawn inexplicably together, as if by fate. In brief, they are:

Agnez, a dashing Musketeer who can never swallow an insult and who whips out her sword at the slightest provocation.

Henri, the disregarded younger son with a knack for numbers and the need to make his fortune.

Dorotea, the dreamy artist who can see people’s auras and has an uncanny strength in the summoning of angels

Simeon, a very large black doctor-in-training whose parents gave him a sex manual to read when he reached puberty.

One of the things I have always loved about Garth Nix is that he always has such interesting, multifaceted female characters, many of whom are in positions of natural authority. It is such a breath of fresh air in the often misogynistic worlds of fantasy (for example, I just re-read Ursula le Guin’s classic fantasy trilogy which begins with The Wizard of Earthsea, and was dismayed by the depiction of women in that world). Anyway, in Angel Mage there is a great deal of diversity, with characters being of all different colours, beliefs and sexual orientations. I loved this so much, it made my day.

Everything about this young adult fantasy is pure magic! I’m just hoping for many more books set in this wonderful world.


You might also like to read my review of Uprooted by Naomi Novik:

Kate Forsyth
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